An Early Entry PhD Option: Expanding Academic Leadership Capacity

Saturday, 16 November 2013: 3:15 PM

Nadine M Nehls, PhD, RN
Gale Barber, MA
Christy M Vogt, BS
School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe an early entry option for admission to a PhD program in nursing.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to envision, based on this innovative model, what should and what should not be replicated.

Purpose:  This presentation describes an innovative approach to expanding the number of PhD prepared nurses.  At the University of Wisconsin-Madison an Early Entry PhD Option is available to pre-nursing students and students beginning the nursing major. In 2011, this program received the American Associations of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award.  The option is designed to identify and matriculate undergraduate students who are interested in academic research careers in nursing.  A key component of the Early Entry PhD Option is early and intensive research training with an established nurse faculty researcher.

Method:  The program is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation.  It was selected as one of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evaluating Innovations in Nursing Projects.  The evaluation includes individual interviews and review of secondary data; the primary analytic techniques are qualitative content analyses, descriptive statistics, and generalized linear modeling.  This presentation will focus on the descriptive content analyses of individual interviews with Early Entry PhD students and graduates.      

Results:  The results have been categorized into four general areas: career decision-making about selecting nursing as a profession, challenges and facilitators of PhD education, anticipated career plans post PhD, and recommendations to increase PhD enrollment in nursing.  Interview data and interpretations pertinent to each of these categories will be presented.

Conclusion:  Early entrance to PhD study is a successful approach toward increasing the number of PhD prepared nurses, and graduating people with a longer career trajectory in which to make significant contributions to the discipline.  It is critical that PhD education in nursing be revised and expanded.  A strategy worthy of replication is the pre-baccalaureate entry to the PhD.